Achtung, Baby: U2 Dumps iPod for BlackBerry

Research in Motion is likely to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a big way — Irish rocker Bono just broke up with the iPod and his new mobile babe is the BlackBerry.

Apparently, RIM said “walk away, walk away, walk away,” and Bono followed, switching his allegiance from Apple’s iPod to RIM’s (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry, which is now the corporate sponsor of the super-group’s 360 tour kicking off in June in Spain.

The news comes at a time when the competition in the smartphone market is heating up even as sales cool off — and new players such as the T-1 Mobile Android phone are also certain to change the landscape — so any edge, whether having a namesake guitarist or not, may be prudent.

At, you see an artsy black-and-white photo of Bono and company and an orange icon bearing the group’s current tour title, but what’s surprising is the BlackBerry company name right below it in popping white-on-black contrast.

Wait, what? The band’s indomitable frontman-cum-diplomat virtually became synonymous with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) love back in 2004. Bono and guitarist Edge joined Steve Jobs on the stage of the California Theatre to announce an unprecedented marketing partnership between U2 and Apple that revolved around the iPod U2 Special Edition.

And who can forget the Apple ad with the band performing the hit single “Vertigo?” Or the infamous Bono quote in 2005 that Apple is “more creative than a lot of people in rock bands”? All this makes it hard to believe that Bono has a BlackBerry neatly secured in a belt clip underneath his black leather jacket.

Details are sparse on what the odd alliance will result in for the band aside from corporate backing for its next worldwide concert tour to promote its next album.

“This tour announcement marks the first stage of a relationship and shared vision between RIM and U2 that we expect will lead to new and innovative ways to enhance the mobile music experience on the BlackBerry platform for U2 fans,” the band’s manager Paul McGuinness said in a statement. “We look forward to sharing more details as the relationship unfolds.”

It’s interesting to note that Bono is a leader at Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm Elevation Partners, which is an investor in Palm, slated to come out with a touch-screen smartphone called Pre aimed at the iPhone and BlackBerry market.

No one can say for certain whether that’s a sign that Bono isn’t banking on the Pre, or if Jobs’ absence in the day-to-day operations of Apple made it easier for the group to sign on RIM.

Meanwhile, scribes are speculating over what the RIM-U2 partnership means even for the maker of the president’s mobile device of choice. Some say the move smacks of desperation, a garish attempt to market the BlackBerry brand beyond the geek group to the digerati as a hip device.

For its part, RIM has reportedly bought over 100 domain names with varying combinations of the band and company name. The company did not respond to inquiries for comment on whether or not we can expect to see new music apps or special edition BlackBerries.

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